Mike Espy speaks to media after his debate against Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith inside the Farm Bureau Federation auditorium Tuesday, November 20, 2018.

Mike Espy, in a new television ad that first aired Thursday, sharply critiqued U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith for her response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Espy, the Democratic former congressman who’s running against the Republican senator in the November election, attacked Hyde-Smith over comments she made in March in which she said the coronavirus pandemic would be “over in two weeks.”

The first COVID-19 cases were confirmed in Mississippi the same week she made that comment.

“Hyde-Smith has simply not done her part to stand up for Mississippi,” Espy said of the senator’s COVID response in a fundraising email on Thursday morning. “This is a sitting senator who is actively hurting her own people.”

Espy also said Hyde-Smith “voted to take money away from unemployed workers while our unemployment rate doubled, and took off for summer recess without providing any additional relief for those struggling.”

When asked for comment, a spokesman for the Hyde-Smith campaign fact-checked several lines of the ad and said of the unemployment critique: “Not true. (Hyde-Smith) supported unemployment benefits. It is Democrats who are blocking the latest relief bill.”

“The increasingly false and desperate campaign being run by Corrupt Mike Espy is shameful. There’s not a single part of this ad that’s true,” Hyde-Smith campaign spokesman Justin Brasell said. “If Mike Espy thought he had any realistic chance to win this race, he would not resort to these kinds of despicable tactics and lies. Senator Hyde-Smith has fought for billions in relief funds to assist unemployed workers, healthcare providers, and small businesses as we all work to safely reopen our economy and fight this global pandemic.”

READ MORE: Here’s where Cindy Hyde-Smith and Mike Espy stand on healthcare.

This is Espy’s second television ad in as many weeks. Meanwhile, Hyde-Smith has not yet purchased airtime — an unusual reality for an incumbent senator less than two months from Election Day.

Espy has outraised Hyde-Smith in all but one campaign finance reporting period this year. And Hyde-Smith has raised less money this year than 96 incumbent U.S. senators. The three who have raised less than her announced they were not seeking re-election.

The Hyde-Smith campaign hasn’t scheduled events, Brasell recently told Mississippi Today. And this week, the Espy campaign is ratcheting up pressure on Hyde-Smith to debate. The Hyde-Smith campaign has not yet accepted debate invitations.

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Adam Ganucheau, as Mississippi Today's editor-in-chief, oversees the newsroom and works with the editorial team to fulfill our mission of producing high-quality journalism in the public interest. Adam has covered politics and state government for Mississippi Today since February 2016. A native of Hazlehurst, Adam has worked as a staff reporter for AL.com, The Birmingham News and The Clarion-Ledger and his work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post and Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Adam earned his bachelor’s in journalism from the University of Mississippi.